PHILIPSBURG—The Board of St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE SXM) would like to extend best wishes to everyone as the community continues into the start of 2015.
The organization said that it only looked forward to more events and better things in this upcoming year. While the organization is still a very young one (launched in December 2013), a lot has been achieved in the past 12+ months. Local, regional and international partnerships have been fostered and contact has been made with a number of relevant entities on the island.
These partnerships will be further explored and cemented in the coming years and local partnerships will also be concretized. There have been social events, including meet and greets, hikes, parties, and general meetings and educational events, including discussion evenings, workshops (abroad and locally), a booth at the annual Lions Health Fair, radio interviews, a theatrical production and the inaugural International Human Rights Day Lecture; all with the aim of bringing LGBT people closer together and building a strong LGBT community here on the island. There is also the Facebook community where there is continued interaction and sharing of information.
Most importantly, awareness has been raised about LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin and the need for further dialogue in order to move forward in a way that is beneficial to us and respectful of our human rights. To this end, SAFE SXM wishes to reiterate that it is open to dialogue, with any and all members of the community, as long as these conversations are carried out in a courteous manner.
Already there have been discussions with religious and political leaders, but not nearly enough. In the upcoming year, more of these discussions will be attempted in order to come to a better understanding and perhaps even cooperation. Union leaders and school boards will also be contacted in order to dialogue about how to make safe spaces for LGBT youth in order for them to learn and become their best selves.
The board acknowledges that while there were considerable successes, there were also areas where obstacles and challenges were encountered and projects that had less impact than intended. There are also areas that still need the board’s attention in order to have improvement and these will certainly be addressed in 2015. However, the board wishes to repeat that these things can only be accomplished if all hands are on deck and LGBT people and allies are available to constructively help make our organization a safe, supportive, social and educational space and place, where people can come and hang out, and grow communally, spiritually and intellectually. This organization can only continue to grow and develop if we have consistency, honesty and support.
In 2015, a survey will be conducted in order to assess the needs and desires of the LGBT community, so that a way forward can be structured based on the reality of the situation at hand. The board hopes that all LGBT persons will assist by filling out this digital survey once it reaches them. SAFE SXM also notes a need for physical, mental/emotional and spiritual health in the LGBT community and so will have events geared specifically towards these areas, including, weekly walks, continued discussion evenings with relevant stakeholders, and outreach with willing religious counterparts.
“We remain true to our objectives which are to 1) promote the social acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin, in order to create an island free of stigma and discrimination towards said persons, where they enjoy freedom and equality at all levels of society, 2) promote personal empowerment by encouraging the awareness of one's own (sexual) identity, and social situation in general, and where needed (and possible) support those LGBT individuals who are in need of assistance and care, 3) represent the collective interests of the LGBT people, and 4) improve awareness, promote equality, especially where they relate (but are not limited) to the LGBT community,” the board members said.
“There is still a lot of work to be done for our community and while the board is more than happy work to our benefit, we also need the input, energies, expertise and assistance from the wider community. We also know that there is a lot happening in and to our community and we hope that in the coming year more people start to speak out against the injustices they are experiencing or know that others are experiencing so that we can record these and offer support and assistance to said persons. We must strive to move from tolerance to acceptance and not backwards to intolerance and in order to do this we must stand strong and united. SAFE SXM is about all of us and for all of us, because in the end, we are stronger together” the board concluded. (SAFESXM)